Best Of » Nightlife

Best of 2013: Nightlife

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Bar Crowd
College Bar
Bang-for-Your-Buck Bar
Neighborhood Bar: Central


311 N. Tejon St., 228-6566,

Most of us think of Tony's in terms of things we can put in our mouths: Pabst Blue Ribbon, cheese curds, pickled eggs, that cute ... never mind. Anyway, owner Eel Anderson points out that there is something deeper to this Packers bar: a sense of community. "We treat everyone equally down here," he says. Even back in 1999, when the bar first opened, everyone meant everyone: old folks, lawyers, skater types. So you can expect them to follow when Tony's relocates across the street around Thanksgiving. Anderson says the new place has 4,200 square feet compared to the current 2,300, and they'll be able to buy instead of rent. While Anderson says it's hard to say goodbye to the familiar digs, he notes that the new spot will have a smoking patio, pool tables, a stage for private parties and shows, more bathroom stalls for the ladies, and a bigger kitchen that will allow for a menu expansion. Among the new items: broasted chicken. — JAS

New Bar (since July 1, 2012)
Place for a Blind Date
Neighborhood Bar: South

Ivywild School complex

1604 S. Cascade Ave., 368-6100,

When you have a stellar taphouse (Bristol Brewery & Pub), a cool coffee-cocktail bar (The Principal's Office), a bad-ass bread and patisserie stand (Old School Bakery) and a sustainability-minded, creative charcuterie shop (The Meat Locker) under one roof, it's kinda hard not to be the best thing since ... well, sliced bread stuffed with fabulously fatty meats. Next to cheese curds and a pint of hop-laced awesomeness. Followed by a potent pour-over and killer dessert drink likely flavored with local whiskey. Yup — Ivywild quickly became everything we'd hoped the expensive, long-in-the-making project would be, and more. "The response has been overwhelmingly positive," says co-founder Joe Coleman. Paradoxically, the exciting newness hasn't yet worn off, while to regulars it already feels like a comfy old haunt. As for that blind date: If it's not going well, at least it's a big building in which to hide, or disappear into a crowd. If it's going famously: Hey, four stops for long conversations without walking more than 100 yards. Score. — MS

Neighborhood Bar: North

Back East Bar and Grill

9475 Briar Village Point, #168, 264-6161,

This place serves up burgers, wraps, wings and brews to a large and growing customer base. Mike Davis is thankful for his loyal customers, which is what makes his place what it is — a real neighborhood bar and grill. Bands on weekends, poker on Tuesdays and trivia on Wednesdays are standard for most bar and grill places, but part of the draw here is the food, which is not normal bar food. "We serve the kind of food we would like, in the way we would expect it to be served to us," Davis says. "It's food that you want." — BW

Neighborhood Bar: East

Holy Cow Pub and Grill

5885 Stetson Hills Blvd., 465-1704,

Holy Cow literally has action every night of the week, with beer pong, karaoke, a running club, cornhole tournaments and a variety of free, live sports viewings that keep its east-side regulars ever busy. "We have a great group of people in this area who support us," says co-owner Chuck Schafer. Giveaways and drawings during each game also bring in a lot of customers. "We're a neighborhood bar with a little extra, a little more than normal," says Schafer. Drop by during an upcoming game to grab 50 wings and a tower of beer for $49, and while you're there, chat with the melting pot of loyal patrons enjoying the rooftop bar. — NK

Neighborhood Bar: West

Thunder & Buttons ll

2415 W. Colorado Ave., 447-9888,

Although we haven't been around long enough to directly verify it, we're told that the west side's favorite bar gets its name from a pair of elk, Thunder and Buttons, who back in the 1880s drew their owner's carriage up and down Colorado Avenue, with its 21 saloons. In addition to late-night happy hours and weekly meetings of the Westside Running Club and Geeks Who Drink, the homey saloon and eatery recently expanded its patio. "We got our liquor license expanded to cover the front patio," says owner Heather Joffe, "so we can enjoy drinking a beer while reading the Indy out front." We're on our way. — BF

Neighborhood Bar: Manitou

Keg Lounge

730 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9531

Manitou Springs has its fair share of watering holes, historical remnants of the old mining and cowboy days. OK, that last characterization is most likely not true. Yet if there were an old saloon-style establishment still in existence in Manitou, the Keg Lounge would easily be it. With its rustic look and long, stretched-out bar, the Keg offers a visit to a time long past. And with an enticing food menu to boot, the Keg has won several of the Indy's Best Of awards over the years. Identifiable by a large wooden beer keg hanging from its front doorway, it invites you into a cozy atmosphere that's great for dinner with the family (really!), drinks with friends, or a Sunday football game. — MB

Neighborhood Bar: Monument

Pikes Peak Brewing Co.

1756 Lake Woodmoor Drive, Monument, 208-4098,

Pikes Peak Brewing Co. has gone from a pint-sized start-up to a blossoming font of success in just a few years, leading it to claim this award for the first time. The only brewing outfit in the region to can some of its offerings — the Devil's Head Red, Elephant Rock IPA and Local 5 Pale Ale all get delivered to liquor stores here, and in Denver and Aurora, by the Beverage Response Vehicle — PPBC also doubled both its brewing and seating capacity last October. On top of all that, it rebooted its brand, swapping a cute and colorful logo designed by owner Chris Wright for a clean, professional look that mimics National Forest signs. "It wasn't cheap," says marketing director Lari Collins of the new look. "But we felt like that was really the right thing to do to make our goal; and we had set our goal to be the clear No. 2 beer provider and producer in Southern Colorado behind Bristol [Brewing Company]." — BC


Nate Windham at the Blue Star

1645 S. Tejon St., 632-1086,

Nate Windham, 40, has been with the Blue Star for three years and has become known for spiking his spirits with a little history. Sure, you've had a great Manhattan before, but was it made with the original ingredients: true pre-Prohibition-era maraschino cherries, Russell's Rye Whiskey and Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth? I doubt it. In line with that old-school approach, Windham himself is a throwback — a true gentleman, not the kind of bartender flashing around and posturing for a tip. If you haven't yet, it's worth coming in and fighting your way through his regulars. — JMT

Local Brewery

Bristol Brewing Company

1604 S. Cascade Ave., 633-2555,

Last month, founder Mike Bristol told us that since Bristol Brewing Company expanded into Ivywild School, beer sales have jumped to 2½ times the volume for these same months in recent years. Meanwhile, his wholesale distribution has grown by 30 percent. But rather than going all Scrooge McDuck inside his golden-grain-filled, vault-like new brewhouse, Bristol and his team continue to be big philanthropists. Their Community Ales series generates roughly $60,000 annually for area nonprofit endeavors, while another $100,000-plus heads toward in-kind donations for hundreds of local events. Point being: Bristol cares about the community that cares about it, and that reciprocal lovin' is built on the back of a tremendously solid flagship beer line of lauded labels like Laughing Lab, Red Rocket and Mass Transit. — MS

Place to Shoot Pool
Bar Patio
Banquet Facility
Restaurant for Tourists

Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.

2 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 635-2800,

Four categories? How does any establishment take four categories? Well, here's the skinny: six standard beers on tap, five+ rotating seasonal and specialty beers, 13 pool tables, a second-floor patio that seats 95, a banquet hall used three to five times a week, warm décor, all in the heart of downtown. "We have something for everyone," says Erica Russell, restaurant manager. Free Pool Mondays, College Night on Wednesdays, or happy hour all day long on Sundays (in honor of the holy pigskin), are a few of the major draws. And we haven't even mentioned specific beers, or food for that matter. "Our lemon Tabasco fried chicken has always been very popular, as well as the Railyard Ale," Russell says. Two gas fire-pit tables on the new patio keep guests warm as they feast. — JH

Upscale Bar

The Rabbit Hole

101 N. Tejon St., 203-5072,

There are a lot of adjectives one could use to describe food and drink, but "gorgeous" is without a doubt the most romantic I've heard. That's how Rabbit Hole bartender Ryan Anthony explains what he calls the business' best drink, The Duchess, a pale yellow, sparkling-wine, grapefruit cosmopolitan, garnished with an orchid. Get your smartphones out, people — you're going to want to Instagram this one. In addition, the Rabbit Hole offers a dozen different Colorado bourbon whiskeys and frequently features wild game on the menu. — GR

Wine Bar

Swirl Wine Bar

717 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-2294,

Andrew and Sharon Palmer took a good idea — connect a bar to the back of their wine shop, housed in a Victorian building in Manitou Springs, with tall ceilings and dark wood — and doubled down on it a few years later by closing the retail side and going all restaurant. The resulting "new" Swirl Wine Bar is one of the more distinctive places to imbibe craft booze and yummy down on thoughtful plates like speck-wrapped artichoke hearts. Get out back in the high-walled alley patio and commune with the falling ivy, fire pit and Christmas lights. — BC

Irish Pub

Jack Quinn Irish Alehouse & Pub

21 S. Tejon St., 385-0766,

Jack Quinn's maintains an element of craic, an Irish term for good banter and great times — that vibe you get when you walk into a place that feels like home. However, the authentic Irish feel isn't the only thing that's earned Quinn's this win for the eighth year in a row. Stellar food abounds, including the traditional Boxty, which manager Martin Troy describes as a "giant Irish burrito." It's a large potato pancake filled with ingredients such as sautéed onions, mashed potatoes, corned beef, cabbage and more. This month, stop in for Scotchtoberfest to enjoy glasses of scotch paired with dishes that complement. — GR

Open Mic Night
Karaoke Bar

Zodiac Venue and Bar

230 Pueblo Ave., 632-5059,

This is the second year in a row that Zodiac has won for its Monday night open mics, and the first for its Thursday night karaoke. Not at all bad for a venue that has yet to reach its third anniversary, and won't until this coming February. "I think we've solidified our identity as Zodiac," says Gentle Fritz, "as opposed to being the bar that used to be ..." The venue co-owner can be forgiven for trailing off before reminding folks of the location's former tenant. (Spoiler: It was the Rocket Room.) Also complementing ongoing live performances by local and touring musicians, Zodiac has added Kids Karaoke on the first Saturday of each month. — BF

Bar to Visit Alone

Murphy's Tavern

2729 N. Nevada Ave.

If you're flying solo at the bar, it's for one of two reasons: You want to be alone, or you couldn't find anyone to come out with you. Either way, Murphy's, in all its no-frillsdom, is the perfect place. You want to be left with your thoughts? No problem. Belly up, send those nonverbal cues, and brood with your beer. You'd rather have company? At the horseshoe-shaped bar, conversations are easy to join, and friendly regulars welcome newbies easily. They might not know your name here, but you won't be a stranger for long. You know, unless you want to be. — LE

Weekly Bar Event

Geeks Who Drink

Multiple locations,

Something good had to knock out the reigning champion of this category, which for years has been the Jack Quinn's Running Club. This time, you've traded the running shoes and pints for a quiz pad and pitchers: Enter Geeks Who Drink, the much-loved weekly pub quiz. Though the questions can be pretty tough (well, for some of us), anyone of age can play. Just show up with a team of six or fewer and sign in at Tony's on Tuesdays or BooDad's on Wednesdays, to name a couple spots. (Others are listed at GWD, while now spread across the U.S., is headquartered in Denver and was started by John Dicker, who, some of you may remember, spent two years as an Indy reporter. — EA

Local Venue for Live Music

The Black Sheep

2106 E. Platte Ave., 227-7625,

Perhaps it's just standard stage-speak, but it seems to me that touring acts who play the Black Sheep — and the Sheep excels at bringing them here, from Son Volt to Capital Cities to KRS-One — more often than not take a moment to say how much they've enjoyed visiting not only the Springs, but this particular all-ages, live-music venue. And as funky a sparse, brick-walled location as this is on Platte Avenue, there's something kind of magical about a place where the bands regularly drip as much sweat as their madly gyrating fans. Mad props to general manager Chris Huffine and his whole crew for their eighth consecutive Best Of award. — KA

Place to Meet Women

Sinful Living Meetup at Zodiac Venue and Bar

Adam Shotwell started Sinful Living in January in an effort to "make Colorado Springs more fun for people who don't like to go to church." Even if you do go to church, you might still find a place for yourself with these folks, as their only objective is to create enjoyable events in a judgment-free environment. A party with Adam and Co. might feature fire spinners, body painters and naughty games. One group you might not expect to find in attendance? A significant swinger population from within the military. But lo and behold, with Sinful Living, expect the unexpected. — GR

Place to Meet Men

Club Q

3430 N. Academy Blvd., 570-1429,

Zodiac Venue and Bar (tie)

230 Pueblo Ave., 632-5059,

With 10 years under its belt, it's easy to see why Club Q bills itself as "Colorado Springs' best gay bar." It also makes sense that patrons would choose it as Colorado Springs' best place to meet men, a distinction it shares this year with Zodiac. The downtown venue may have the corner on live music, but Club Q boasts the inexhaustibly talented drag deejay Kyree Myst, who can lay claim to hosting, performing at or producing some 200 events a year. And while the two clubs were neck-and-neck in this category, we're confident they'll rise above any rivalry. After all, there are plenty of men to go around. — BF

Naughty Business

Peaks and Pasties,

The burlesque of 2013 is usually associated with the portrayal of erotic desires onstage, but there's also a lot more — history, parody, over-the-top silliness — to your typical performance. With Peaks and Pasties, you can add the fruits of open-mindedness to the offerings delivered with your glitz and glam. "We are not Victoria's Secret models," says Lola Spitfire. "There's no description of what a performer needs to look like. You could be male, female, transgender, 18 or 65, 115 pounds or 215 pounds. ... Our doors are open to everybody, and the same goes with our audience." — GR

Party Entertainment

Vader's Fist 501st Legion, Mountain Garrison, Pikes Peak Squad

The first time I saw a handful of Star Wars stormtroopers about town, I thought to myself, "Damn good Halloween costumes." It wasn't Halloween. Turns out we have our very own Pikes Peak Squad of the Mountain Garrison of the 501st Legion, which is a part of the 6,500-member, globe-spanning "preferred Imperial costuming group" for Lucasfilm. Spokesperson Shana Farris says that this all-volunteer group uses its powers for good, raising money for a host of charities, including the Space Foundation, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (where you'll find them at the end of October at Boo at the Zoo), and other child-focused nonprofits. For a donation in their name, the group is "happy to make appearances at children's birthday parties." I wonder if my 40th would count? — KA

In-Store Beer Selection
In-Store Spirits/Liquor Selection
In-Store Wine Selection

Cheers Liquor Mart

1105 N. Circle Drive, 574-2244,

If ya LOVE US," reads an August post on the store's Facebook page, "then please Vote For Us in the Indy Best of Colorado Springs!" Well, guess who loves ya? (As if there could be any doubt.) Cheers is a behemoth of spirited sales, taking the Triple Crown of alcohol — the Beer, Spirits/Liquor and Wine categories — for the sixth year in a row. And if you've dropped in lately, you know that the store shows no sign of slowing. Even its email blast is full of discounts, deals, new releases — Cinna-Sugar Vodka if you're nasty, as Miss Jackson would say — to say nothing of the Dog of the week, supporting National Mill Dog Rescue. One recently recognized pup, a 6-year-old female Rottweiler, was, of course, named Merlot. — BC

Beer Selection on Tap

Old Chicago (Powers)

3190 New Center Point, 591-8994,

First things first: Yes, voters singled out this one Old Chicago location. It seems strange, since all nearby Old Chicago locations generally offer top Colorado craft brews (Bristol, Odell), commercial standards (Budweiser, Coors) and European imports (Guinness, Stella Artois). But general manager Chad Reynolds can offer one reason why Powers may stand out. "We've recently done a business remodel, which has allowed us to go up from 30 draft lines to 36 draft lines — 12 of which are rotating lines," he says. "You could come in on Tuesday, have a drink, come back on Friday and try something completely new on tap." Since the remodel, the restaurant has also changed the glassware, making sure they have the appropriate glass for every ale and lager. Stop in, have a drink and ask about the restaurant's beer "mini-tours," which last three weeks and feature various themes. — JH

Local Microbrew to Drink in Summer

Beehive Honey Wheat

Bristol Brewing Company, 1604 S. Cascade Ave., 633-2555,

It's easy enough to understand Colorado Springs' all-consuming desire for Beehive. Bristol Brewing Company's epic session beer incorporates local honey into a light grain bill, making for one of the easiest-drinking beers around. Beehive is easily paired to perfection, but it's also ideal for consuming alone on said hot summer day, when a "lawnmower" beer is called for and that wisp of pollen in the air inspires cravings of bee-borne, liquid goodness. — MS

Local Microbrew to Drink in Winter

Winter Warlock

Bristol Brewing Company, 1604 S. Cascade Ave., 633-2555,

A cold, refreshing beer on a summer day? A no-brainer. But even the warm-weather lovers among us can agree that one of the best things about winter is the release of Bristol's Winter Warlock. The dark oatmeal stout brings a certain brand of comfort at even the most blustery of times. It's great in the bottle, but we're anxiously awaiting the perfect snowy day to wrap our hands around a glass and watch the snow fall from within the cozy confines of the Ivywild School, new home to Bristol's brewing operations. — LE

Bloody Mary

Dutch Mill Tavern

503 W. Colorado Ave., 471-3370,

I believe the secret to a good Bloody Mary is not in the quality of the vodka — it's in the accoutrements. Spicy or mild? Olives, pickles or celery? All personal choices. That's why I love the Dutch Mill Tavern on the weekends. It offers a build-your-own Bloody bar for $5 a round. Start with a generous pour of well vodka over ice, then choose from a nicely spiced house mix, or plain tomato juice, or Clamato to spice up as you like. Pick from among olives (some are even garlic-stuffed), pickles, peppers, celery and spices, or just top your Bloody with as many as you can fit in the glass. — LE

Chain champions

Congrats to some bigger businesses that locals love:

Domestic Beer

Pabst Blue Ribbon

Happy Hour


1706 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., 576-0440; 2890 New Center Point, 638-6200; 5807 N. Academy Blvd., 260-1788;

Imported Beer


Sports Bar

Fox and Hound

3101 New Center Point Drive, 570-0500,

Best Of the Indy Music Awards

2013 marked the third year of the Indy Music Awards, in which our readers voted for their favorite local artists in a wide variety of musical genres. Winners subsequently performed at the free Indy Music Awards Festival, held annually during the first week of September. No need to wait until next September to see most of these artists again, though, since the Indy’s Playing Around section will keep you up-to-date year-round on their whereabouts.


Jason Miller

Joe Johnson

Changing Colors


Jake Loggins

Grant Sabin (tie)

Big Jim Adam & John Stilwagen

Country • Bluegrass

Grass It Up

Flying W Wranglers

Acme Bluegrass Band


Martini Shot

40oz. Freedom Fighters

Suga Bear & the Showtime Band


Brandon Lee

Animus Invidious

DJ Gravity


Haunted Windchimes

Edith Makes a Paper Chain


Hip-Hop (Solo)

Black P

Che Bong

Stoney Bertz

Hip-Hop (Duo or Group)

The ReMINDers

Mad Trees


Indie Rock

El Toro de la Muerte

We Are Not a Glum Lot


Jazz (Solo)

Tony Exum Jr.

Barbara Ernst

Bob Tudor

Jazz (Duo or Group)

Mango Fan Django


Colorado Springs Big Jazz Band

Metal • Hard Rock



Sonic Vomit


Murder Hat

Mostly Don'ts

99 Bottles

R&B • Funk • Soul

Charlie Milo Trio

Arch Hooks

Mike Clark & the Sugar Sounds


Anthromusicology, Grant Sabin

Born Champions, The ReMINDers

4Play, Bullhead*ded


Chuck Snow

Andy Clifton

Tom Skora

Out-of-Area Artist



Elephant Revival

People's Choice


Knight in Colors

Sean Waldron


Barbara Ernst

Josh Lanier

Sean Waldron


Dave Zahara

Austin Young

Grant Sabin


Collin Estes

John Stilwagen

Bryant C. Jones


Michael Glaser

Charlie Milo

Brian "Doc" Hofflander


Jameson Becker

Alex Koshak

Stu Pray

Multi- Instrumentalist

Mike Clark

Robby Red Locks

Bob Tudor

Local Live Act


Claymore Disco


Local Venue

Black Sheep

Stargazers Theatre & Event Center

Zodiac Venue and Bar

Local Live Show by a National Act

Primus 3-D at City Auditorium

R.A. The Rugged Man at Union Station

Royal Southern Brotherhood at Crystola Roadhouse

Music Promoter

Amy Whitesell, A Music Company Inc.

Bryan Ostrow, Triple Nickel Tavern

Soda Jerk Presents, Black Sheep

Local Music Festival


Blues Under the Bridge

Indy Music Awards (tie)

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